Seattle-based Cascade Designs moving 100 manufacturing, distribution jobs to Reno, Nev.

Seattle's rising labor costs and pricey real estate spurred company officials to conduct a nationwide search.

Seattle-based Cascade Designs (parent to MSR, Therm-a-rest, Platypus, and numerous other outdoor brands) plans to shift all of its distribution and part of its American manufacturing to a new facility in Reno, Nev., company officials tell SNEWS.

The decision, announced to employees Thursday, will move about 100 jobs from Seattle to Reno starting in August and running through early 2016, said Cascade Designs Public Relations Manager Martin Maisonpierre. That represents about 25 percent of Cascade Designs total Seattle workforce, which includes management, marketing, research and design jobs that will remain in the Emerald City, along with some manufacturing.

"Everyone affected has been offered a position in Reno — some have already taken that opportunity, but we don't expect everyone will," Maisonpierre told SNEWS. "We're giving everyone six to 10 months to make that decision."

As the company grew and was in need of more space, officials initially looked to stay in Seattle, but increasing labor costs — Seattle is set to phase in the nation's highest minimum wage at $15-an-hour — and a pricey real estate market in the Pacific Northwest spurred company officials to take their search nationwide, eventually settling on Reno.

Cascade Designs will lease 100,000 square-feet of new space in Reno to house its distribution operations and some of its more labor-intensive manufacturing, such as its RidgeRest Mattresses and Platypus bladders. Meanwhile, the company's more high-tech items, such as its MSR stoves and Therm-a-rest NeoAir camping mattresses, will continue to be made in Seattle.

"Reno offered the best mix of costs, incentives and room to grow," Maisonpierre said. The city on the Nevada/California border, off Interstate 80, should prove more efficient for distribution, he added. Reno also provided more modern buildings and the chance to diversify the company's locations. This will be Cascade Designs' third facility, in addition to Seattle and its Europe base in Ireland. About 70-80 percent of the company's goods are made in America, with the remaining made in Ireland and through contracted work in Asia.

"Seattle has been our home since 1972 and will continue to be a hub for our technological innovation due the tremendous talent pool and access to world-class testing grounds," Cascade Designs Co-founder and Chairman of the Board John Burroughs told staff on Thursday. "We remain steadfastly committed to our Seattle facilities, but to continue to expand in one of the fastest growing and expensive metropolitan areas in the U.S. takes away from our ability to direct vital funding towards product innovation. By establishing a new facility in Reno, I believe we will be able to address these concerns and continue to grow as a company while ensuring our long-term commitment to U.S. manufacturing."

--David Clucas


Therm-a-Rest founders Jim Lean and John Burroughs with the original mattress at the Seattle factory in 1972.

Cascade Designs: All in the family

Forty-six years ago, a passionate hiker, climber and camper named John Burroughs had a groundbreaking idea: Sleeping on the solid earth, surrounded by the wilderness that he loved, shouldn’t need to be miserable. Burroughs had a PhD in electrical engineering from Stanford and, at more